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Let’s Discuss: Hanging Out a Shingle in Public Accounting

We spend a lot of time discussing careers here. Over the last four years, It’s become such a big part of our content that we started a little side venture as a result.
The reason for that, I think, is that professionals with accounting backgrounds have options. A lot of them. Unlike our friends who pursue careers in law, there’s virtually no debate about the value of an accounting degree. Quite the opposite in fact — there are dozens of articles, here and elsewhere, discussing why accounting is such an attractive career path. The vast number of jobs out there for people with accounting degrees being just one reason. 
But some people are not satisfied by a lot of good job options. There are plenty of folks who don’t define success by a good salary, job security, and all the benefits that come with all those spoils.
No, some people want to have all that and more and sometimes those ambitions can be satisfied by starting your own business. And lately, a lot more people have decided that they want to give it a shot. Whether you’re thinking about the first office of Jane Doe, CPA (future Big 4 firm) or a chain of lemonade stands, your background in accounting and taxes puts you at a great advantage to many entrepreneurs.
Starting your own business isn’t for everyone — like I said above, things like a steady paycheck and knowing you’ve got a place to go to work every day is paramount for a lot of people and the idea of being the boss/employee is a little too much to bear. Of course, if you’re not sure, you can always take a quiz to find out, but I think it comes down to a few key things:
  • Can you commit to an idea or plan?
  • How concerned are you with failure?
  • Are you motivated by something other than money?
That’s not everything obviously and there are endless articles out there about this topic, but at the outset there are a number of decisions that you have to make. Initially because not everyone has the money up-front to just up and quit their jobs to commit to the new business, lots of people start their ideas as side businesses. 
For someone with an accounting background, that could mean doing a dozen or so tax returns for family and friends or doing a little consulting on the side for businesses that need some guidance on financial reporting. Yeah, that sounds like a lot extra work but that’s where a lot of these things start. 
Once you’ve determined that your side business will require a bit more organization than a shoebox that holds your receipts, Lifehacker discusses “Your One Essential Hire”:
Most side businesses want to avoid hiring a lawyer unless absolutely necessary because, well, attorneys are expensive. However, out of the gate, you at least want to have a good accountant. Especially when you're first getting started, an accountant can answer questions like "Should I found an LLC or an S-Corp?" and help you figure out how your business will affect your taxes. In some areas (like here in San Diego), there's a yearly city tax for running a business and a local business registry (which I had no idea existed when I moved here). Your accountant will be able to answer finance-related questions and help you deal with all those annoying details of just getting set up.
Well, fancy that! You’re an accountant! To some people starting a new business, choosing an entity type, cash or accrual, and accounting software might seem like daunting decisions, but a background in accounting has prepared you for these types of things. Through work experience and education, you’ve come to understand the pros and cons of many of these choices and this is the part of the process that you would take for granted.
We definitely want to hear from those of you that are giving starting your own firm or business serious thought. What made you decide to go out on your own? What kind of decisions did you face after you made the decision to start? Did your accounting background make things easier? 
Discuss all these and more and if you have a longer version that you want to share, email us.